Family Travel to Oahu

Choosing a Place to Stay

Resorts: All the big resorts make kids' programs a priority. When booking your room, ask about keiki (children's) menus at restaurants, free activities on the property, and pools and water parks built specifically for the younger set.

In Waikiki, your best bet for kids is the Hilton Hawaiian Village, where there's a large beach and loads of kids' programs. Also good choices: Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort, Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel, and the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani.

Condos: You can cook your own food and get twice the space of a hotel room for much less. Be sure to ask about the size of the complex's pool and barbecue availability. For the ultimate family condo experience on Oahu, Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club can't be beat with its sheltered beaches, four pools, barbecues, children's play areas, large kitchens, and an on-site grocery store. In Waikiki, try the the Castle Waikiki Shore and Outrigger Luana Waikiki.

Ocean Activities

On the Beach: In Waikiki, your best beach bets for young children are Kuhio Beach Park and Fort DeRussy Beach Park, both protected from a strong shore break and with a wide stretch of sand, with lifeguards on duty. On the windward side, try Kailua Beach Park, with its shady trees and good bathroom/shower facilities. North Shore beaches are recommended for children only in the summer months, and of these, Waimea Bay, with its wide stretch of sand and good facilities, is best for kids. On the leeward side, Ko Olina's protected coves are great for families with small children.

On the Waves: Waikiki is the place for everyone to learn to surf, including kids. Some hotels, including the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, offer in-house surf schools. Or, for a less crowded surfing experience, head to Barber's Point.

The Underwater World: Hawaii is a great place to introduce your kids to snorkeling. Even without the mask and snorkel, they'll be able to see colorful fish darting around coral reefs, and they may also spot endangered Hawaiian green sea turtles and dolphins. On Oahu the quintessential snorkeling experience can be had at Hanauma Bay, where kids can see hundreds of species of fish in protected waters and enjoy a wide stretch of beach. In summer months only, Shark's Cove on the North Shore is an interesting experience for older kids who already have snorkeling basics.

Land Activities

Oahu is fortunate to have the largest variety of land-based experiences in the Islands. Kids can visit the Honolulu Zoo for twilight tours, touch fishy friends at the Waikiki Aquarium, help in a dolphin training session at Sea Life Park, or husk a coconut at the Polynesian Culture Center. Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden offers wide-open spaces and a duck pond, while Kualoa Ranch is the place for horseback riding.

After Dark

At night, younger kids get a kick out of luau, and many of the shows incorporate young audience members, adding to the fun. Older kids are more likely to enjoy the handful of more modern luau, incorporating acrobatics, lively music, and fire dancers. On Friday, don't miss watching the Hilton Hawaiian Village's free fireworks show at 7:45 pm or 8 pm (varies seasonally) from your beachfront seat.

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